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Bones to Buff in 30 days

Escape from Hardgainer hell, Part 4
Get Bigger with this 30-day program.

How To Go From Bones To Buff In Just 30 Days!

For someone struggling to gain mass, a different approach must be taken. Here are the benefits of a 30-day program for ectomorphs. Check it out!

Think of this program as a slingshot, but not a long-term plan. The principles within can be used forever, but this is just the first step in making career gains in the next 30 days for the ectomorph.

  • What Is "Hardgainer"? Considering the increased amount of fruitless results in the gym, it appears to be a mix of poor training, nutrition and genetics. Although no direct etiology is found.
  • Do I Have "Hardgainer"? Perhaps. It's hard to tell at this point, but with proper nutrition principles and exercise prescription most signs point to no.
  • Can I Catch "Hardgainer" From A Friend? Yes. In fact, it seems to travel in packs of men influenced by faux-workouts printed in popular press magazines with empty promises.
  • How Do I Avoid Others With "Hardgainer"? You'll be deprived of the exact equation, but a standard assumption is anything under a tight large T-shirt for males taller than 5-foot-9.

Recognizing deception is key, especially in the lay population (i.e. cutting sleeves off a T-shirt from a youth baseball league 10 years ago so it appears tight and they large). Early detection is the key to prevention.

The Best Strength Training Program

The primary goal of this phase is to introduce proper tension, volume, and intensity over the course of the month to allow for the most rapid strength gains without inhibiting recovery.

The best strength training program for the hardgainer is surprisingly a full body workout 3 times per week, or an upper/lower split each done 2 times per week. Why? With typical bodybuilding programs you need to use multiple exercises to induce hypertrophy in the muscle.

Isolation exercises in intermediate to advanced bodybuilders can create a lot of muscle breakdown (and subsequent amino acid uptake by the muscles).

In the amateur lifter who lacks muscle mass, less total volume is needed to get the same relative amount of breakdown. Not to mention, isolation exercises in the beginner are done with such insignificant weight it's common sense to stick with heavier exercises.

Isolation exercises in intermediate to advanced bodybuilders can create a lot of muscle breakdown (and subsequent amino acid uptake by the muscles).
"Isolation exercises in intermediate to advanced bodybuilders can create a lot of muscle breakdown (and subsequent amino acid uptake by the muscles)."

The 3-day full body program is rather difficult for many to digest. We've been bred to think that more is better. But more isn't better. Better is better. For someone struggling to gain mass, a different approach must be taken. Allow me to explain the benefits of a 3-day program.

A 5-day per week body part split only gives us 4 opportunities to hit each muscle group for the month (once per week). With a full body split we have 12 growth opportunities (3 per week) over same period and an upper/lower split, 8 (2 per week).

With a high metabolism, more time is better spent out of the gym. Exercise causes an increase in energy expenditure and, in terms of gaining muscle, can only be countered by increased food intake.

To my way of thinking, 12 growth opportunities without too much of an increase in metabolism is a phenomenal way to ignite muscle growth.

We know that muscle is built outside the gym, so prioritize rest. Couple this with the fact that Rhea and colleagues (2003) found 3 times per week training to be best for beginners.

The Workout

So given a 3 day split, the next step is to use daily undulating periodization. Coach Alwyn Cosgrove likes this method for a one reason: it works.

It has been shown by, again, Rhea and colleagues (2002) to be better for strength gains. This brings us to a 3-day per week full body program with a rotating rep scheme for maximal hypertrophy gains over the next 4 weeks.

You may have expected the next high volume program packed with tons and tons of exercises and workouts over the next 30 days, but this isn't it. Evidence based knowledge is going to prove superior if you do two things:

  1. Train hard
  2. Believe in the program

You'll notice I've selected 3 tempos for this phase: slow, controlled and fast. The only thing you need to be counting during a set is the number of reps. If you know what tempo is prescribed you can easily adjust the rhythm of each rep to roughly match it close enough.

Tempos are one variable guys look at on a program, but never pay much attention to. Let me tell you this is critical to increasing the time under tension - which will ultimately influence the quantity of muscle growth.

A slow tempo should come out to roughly a 4-5 second rep. A controlled tempo is a 2-4 second rep and a fast rep is a typical just-lift-the-dang-bar pace.

The concentric, or exertion, portion of every lift shouldn't be controlled. When you accelerate a weight fast, or attempt to, you increase the amount of force the muscle is producing. This will help increase the growth response. With tempos, only tweak the eccentric (lowering) or pause at the bottom.

Workout Schedule

Day Workout Sets/Reps Tempo Rest
1 Monday 5 x 5 reps Slow 120 seconds
3 Wednesday 4 x 10 reps Controlled 90 seconds
5 Friday 3 x 15 reps Controlled 60 seconds
8 Monday 2 x 20 reps Fast 30 seconds
10 Wednesday 5 x 5 reps Slow 120 seconds
12 Friday 4 x 10 reps Controlled 90 seconds
15 Monday 3 x 15 reps Controlled 60 seconds
17 Wednesday 2 x 20 reps Fast 30 seconds
19 Friday 5 x 5 reps Slow 120 seconds
22 Monday 4 x 10 reps Controlled 90 seconds
24 Wednesday 3 x 15 reps Controlled 60 seconds
26 Friday 2 x 20 reps Fast 30 seconds
29 Repeat Repeat Repeat Repeat

During this 30-day period, each workout will have a different rep range each week, and it will repeat on the 29th day, carrying into day 60 and beyond.

The Exercises

Monday
Superset
Superset
Superset
Superset

Day 1:

Day 8:

Day 15:

Day 22:


Wednesday
Superset
Superset
Superset
Superset

Day 3:

Day 10:

Day 17:

Day 24:


Friday
Superset
Superset
Superset
Superset

Day 5:

Day 12:

Day 19:

Day 26:

Muscle-Gaining Nutrition

Muscle-gaining nutrition is still a source of contention for many. I'm guilty of taking a simplistic approach to gaining mass. Some may disagree with me, but I am a fan of liquid nutrition for gaining mass.

Liquid nutrition does two things I like: it's easy to "sneak" a lot of calories into a drink and it's never as filling as whole food (8oz steak, 6 oz sweet potato, and a vegetable).

For the hardgainer, I prefer a higher carbohydrate diet due to some hormonal factors (higher catecholamines, thyroid, etc) and it helps keep protein from getting too high. High protein diets are used often when leaning out to increase metabolic rate, something we want to control when trying to "out-eat" your metabolic machinery.

Exercise Causes An Increase In Energy Expenditure And Can Only Be Countered By Increased Food Intake.

A protein and carbohydrate blended protein powder works well when making drinks throughout the day and best in a ratio of at least 2g carbs to 1g protein. Beverly International Mass Maker is one of my all time favorites but I've blended a pure carbohydrate with a whey protein isolate more often than not.

My choice is to either eat 4 food meals and 3 shakes, or 3 food meals with 4 shakes. My preference is really neither because my decision usually depends on how busy I am running around on a given day. Generally the busier, the more shakes make their way into my diet.

I've done everything from grinding oats to adding way too much olive oil to my shakes in the past. My stomach has been through the gauntlet as my personal laboratory.

This is largely why I prefer powders now. You should strive to have a minimum of 500 calories per shake through additions like skim milk, heavy cream, peanut butter, or carbohydrates. With 7 meals per day at roughly 500 calories per pop you'll be in the ballpark of 3500+ calories. This should be sufficient for growth.

Of course your whole food meals should consist of 30-40g protein and 40-50g carbohydrates as slow digesting, low glycemic options. With ample amounts of fat you should easily hit 500 calories per meal.

Conclusion

While the advice contained here is far from sexy, it's what I'd bet on. This type of routine is tried and true, backed by research and real-world success, and will help you gain the maximum amount of mass if you give it your all the next 30, 60, 90 days and beyond.

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About The Author

A former athlete and bodybuilder, he has a frame of reference that goes beyond general personal training. He looks to continue training others...

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metaldrummer726

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metaldrummer726

thanks for all the information. do you have to change the diet or anything else if you are in between an ectomorph and mesomorph

Dec 3, 2011 5:26am | report
jason93108

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jason93108

Hi Ryan, I'm going to try this program. But I have a question. This programs has different reps every workout. Therefore, we should use same weight during every workout? As example, Day 1 Squat 5x5 (Slow) but Day 8 Squat 2x20 (Fast) I'm using the same weight in this 2?

Apr 16, 2012 9:55pm | report
highiq3

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highiq3

From my experience, definitely not. You want to use a weight where you max out on the last rep. So you'll lift heavier on a 5x5 than a 2x20.

Jul 25, 2012 2:30pm | report
mrwright1094

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mrwright1094

You should always go heavier when doing lower reps. By your 20th rep you should be reaching failure. Same goes for the 5X5. You should struggle on the 5th rep.

Sep 17, 2012 12:46am | report
daredreammuscle

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daredreammuscle

Does this really work? I'm on week 4 already but when I look at myslef in the mirror it's as is nothing's happened to my body (though I got a bit stronger). I've been strict about my meals and protein intake (yes, I bring a CALCULATOR everytime I eat) and have followed the program to the letter but still..... I think there are no changes.

Apr 30, 2012 7:43pm | report
ivanovicl

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ivanovicl

Hey man. So from your experience did this program do anything for you? Is it worth giving a try?

Jul 13, 2012 6:58pm | report
DWalsh335

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DWalsh335

check out mike o'hearns power bodybuilding program on here it involves mostly the same principles and its a hell of a workout

Jan 25, 2013 9:52am | report
DWalsh335

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DWalsh335

check out mike o'hearns power bodybuilding program on here it involves mostly the same principles and its a hell of a workout

Jan 25, 2013 9:52am | report
robertoboy

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robertoboy

I have been trying the three day a week training vs. 5 days per week while lifting lighter weights and more reps and am starting to see better results with this type of training.

Sep 21, 2012 1:51pm | report
Giveyaspankz

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Giveyaspankz

You know.. Ive always read to do a full body workout 3 days aweek and never tried it.. I might actually give this a try... and eat like a horse. hahaha

Oct 16, 2012 6:53pm | report
benstopper

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benstopper

Another really interesting article. I, myself, do NOT have an Ectomorph body type but still great to know these things for giving advise to others.

Oct 16, 2012 10:50pm | report
  • Body Stats
  • ht: 18'10"
  • wt: 226.16 lbs
  • bf: 13.8%
tribbs1642

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tribbs1642

Great artical. Bodybuilding.com has become an amazing resource that has everything you need to reach your goal for everybody type. People just need to follow the program an not cut something out because they dont like it or its to hard. Time to hop on that pain train. GET SOME

Oct 24, 2012 2:24pm | report
Spitfire2k6

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Spitfire2k6

Definitely going to give this a shot, problem is I'm on a low carb diet at the moment as even though I am an ectomorph my body fat has creeped up and I want it gone FAST. Any advice on this?

Nov 13, 2012 4:40pm | report
Woldberg

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Woldberg

Great stuff. Looks very challenging.
I have 1 question though. What about warm up sets. Should I include them in the total given sets? So when doing 5x5 the first or first two are warm ups. Or do 1 or 2 before starting the given sets? I guess when doing 2x20, if you want to do a warm up, it's not the first of the 2 given sets. But you should do it before.

Nov 22, 2012 3:30am | report
Gothmafia

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Gothmafia

I did not do warm-up sets as such, but I always started with my 50% & 70 % of the maximum weight and included those 2 sets in a given sets.

Nov 27, 2012 5:53am | report
  • Body Stats
  • ht: 13'4"
  • wt: 160.12 lbs
  • bf: 16.0%
Woldberg

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Woldberg

Actually I have another Q.

I calculated what would be the estimated time to complete this workout. And I came to a shocking 1 hours and 40 sec. for day 1.

If 1 slow rep would be, let's say, 30 sec. and you have 5 of them in 1 exercise, this would be 30 x 5 = 150 seconds.
Adding to that 5 x 120 seconds makes a total of 750 seconds.
There are 8 exercises in day 1. 8 x 750 = 6000 sec = 100 minutes. And that's not taking into account, moving around the gym, perhaps having a little longer rest.
Am I making a calculation mistake? If not, is 1, 4 hours in the gym not a bit too much. For me this would be practically impossible

Nov 22, 2012 6:33am | report
Gothmafia

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Gothmafia

You are right. It took me almost 1 hour 45 minutes, sometimes even 2 hours to complete the exercises (including the warm-up time).

Nov 27, 2012 5:44am | report
  • Body Stats
  • ht: 13'4"
  • wt: 160.12 lbs
  • bf: 16.0%
Gothmafia

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Gothmafia

I am a classic ectomorph. I completed a month on this programme. I shall be honest here in saying that I did not strictly followed all the exercises (because of equipments unavailability) & tempos (too difficult & risky to perform fast BB squat, BB front squat, BB lunges & Romanian deadlift), but I performed alternate exercises wherever equipment was not available for a particular exercise and on days with fast tempo, I switched to controlled tempo. I to my surprise have gained 7.7 KG in a month. I started off at 65 KG and today I weigh 72.78 KG. Now, I know not all of this is lean mass, & I can see I have accumulated a small amount of fat around my waist, but I am not bloated or oedematous at all (no water retention). I can see noticeable change in my muscle (of course they are not big) especially my thighs. The weakest area is my pectoralis (I do not know why). I did not perform any cardio activity during the programme. Coming to the diet. I consumed 3 meals and 3 shakes in a day. I roughly consumed 2500 - 2700 Cal per day. I used 2 servings of Optimum 100% Gold standard Whey Protien & half serving of Muscletech MassTech & split them in to 3 shakes per day (Morning, in between lunch & dinner and post-work out). In addition to that I consumed 500 gms of natural yoghurt everyday & 10 almonds, 15 Cashew Nuts & 10ml of Olive oil on a daily basis. I shall continue to be on this programme for another 1 month and shall post back the updates.

Nov 27, 2012 5:40am | report
  • Body Stats
  • ht: 13'4"
  • wt: 160.12 lbs
  • bf: 16.0%
Woldberg

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Woldberg

Thanks Gothmafia for your replies and the journal above. Congrats with your progress.

I've decided for now this program is too demanding, as I'm just starting out. I'm going to do All Pro's Beginners Routine. Though I might implement the rep tempo concept of this program, as All Pro's has heavy and light days. The rep tempo does make sense.
But I bookmarked this routine so I might switch after doing at least 4 cycles of All Pro.

Nov 27, 2012 6:43am | report
Nameless7

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Nameless7

I've completed four weeks of this training, calories between 3k-3500, high protein intake, carbs where they should be, and each exercise with rep scheme (along with tempo). Have seen great results. Being able to lift legs twice a week has boosted my strength in all areas (naturally increases testosterone). I have already and will continue to recommend this program.

Dec 4, 2012 11:04pm | report
Pishko

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Pishko

Very interested read. Thanks!

Jan 27, 2013 2:45pm | report
taceyoto

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taceyoto

What about off days training? What about cardio? I have already been cleared for weightlifting and all, but I have a condition that requires me to perform some cardio each week for my joints. Is that overdoing it? Cardio on off days? How might I get around this issue?

Feb 3, 2013 4:10am | report
hookups34

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hookups34

So am I supposed to take 120 sec, 90 sec, etc. breaks in between each set or between the different types of workouts. I am assuming it is in between each set but on the days when you do 5 sets of 5 reps you would accumulate approx. 80 minutes of resting...any insights would be appreciated.

Jun 5, 2013 7:26pm | report
  • Body Stats
  • ht: 14'11"
  • wt: 179.6 lbs
  • bf: 13.0%
taraka

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taraka

very nice!

Sep 13, 2013 12:46pm | report
  • Body Stats
  • ht: 14'11"
  • wt: 179.68 lbs
  • bf: 15.0%
jtwoshoes

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jtwoshoes

Been doing thos program for. A little more then a month . I. Was 180 lbs I am now 205 lbs 13.5 bf.. I love the program ill contonue with it until I find a a different one

Nov 17, 2013 11:29pm | report
Showing 1 - 25 of 26 Comments

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